Do you deal with bouts of doubt?
Doubt is one of Twelve Troublemakers who plague me as a writer. I’ll explore one a week, beginning with this most persistent of pests.
How do I know when doubt has me in its claws? I see the signs.
Symptoms of Doubt
Negative chatter ~ As writers, we often hear voices in our heads. When those voices belong to our characters, listening to them can be fun. But when Dubious the Doubt Dragon chimes in, watch out!
“You call yourself a writer? What a joke! Your work is nothing special.”
“You’ll never succeed, so why bother trying?”
“This is garbáge! Don’t waste your time pursuing pipe dreams.”
Lack of self-confidence ~ Bombarded by the Doubt Dragon’s drivel, our belief in our abilities wavers. Uncertainty gets a foothold.
Indecision ~ When we become unsure of ourselves, we’re hesitant to work on our stories. We know we supposed to be writing, but we can’t decide whether to revise a past story, edit the current one, or start something new, hoping a fresh start will restore our confidence.
Paralysis ~ Lack of self-confidence coupled with indecision cripples us, and we’re unable to write. We can sit at our computers, fingers poised over the keyboard, unable to look at our stories for fear they’re every bit as bad as the Doubt Dragon would have us believe. Unable to break free, we give up, waiting for the debilitating doubts to disappear.
How to Slay the Doubt Dragon
Refuse to listen to the negative chatter. ~ When the Doubt Dragon starts spewing lies, don’t buy into it. Speak truth instead.
“I’m a writer. My stories and my voice are unique—and special.”
“Others have succeeded. I can, too.”
“Pursuing my dream is a valuable use of my time.”
Surround yourself with supportive people. ~ Spend time fostering mutually beneficial friendships with like-minded people—and then spend time with them. When you’re facing doubts, they’ll be there to encourage and support you.
Keep a sunshine folder. ~ I heard this term on Gina Holme’s February 2, 2011 post at Novel Journey, “What is it really like to be published?” She said her sunshine folder is the place she puts uplifting letters and email from her readers, which she keeps “to read on days I feel like a miserable hack.”
For those of us not yet receiving fan mail from readers, we can included positive feedback from contest judges, encouraging emails from writer friends and critique partners, copies of special comments left on our blogs . . .
Create an “I Rock!” Gallery. ~ My office walls are filled with motivational words and sayings. Interspersed are certificates of contest finals and wins, my first published magazine article, and a copy of a letter from a published author who critiqued the first chapter of my book and said really nice things about it. Putting such things up where we can see them can serve as a reminder of our successes and give us proof that the Doubt Dragon is just talking smack.
Keep writing. ~ One of the best ways to ward off attacks from the Doubt Dragon is to write. The mere act of working on our stories can serve to restore our confidence and renew our enthusiasm. Immersed in our story worlds, we’ll once again experience the joy of creation and can slay that Doubt Dragon.
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Your Dealings with Doubt . . . and a Drawing
What symptoms of doubt do you experience?
How do you combat your bouts of doubt?
One person who leaves a comment and answers one of the questions above will win the dragon pictured above. This little Folkmanis finger puppet might seem a stilly item for an adult, I know, but for me looking that Doubt Dragon in the eye and telling it to take a hike would be a good reminder not to let it get a foothold in my writing life. If you win and don’t want the little guy, you could always share it with a child or grandchild.
I’ll hold the drawing Sunday, February 13th and post the winner’s name in the post published the next day, when I’ll introduce the next of the Twelve Troublemakers.